Johnny Sexton returns for Leinster against Connacht
20-year-old Max O’Reilly and Andrew Smith to make provincial debuts at the RDS
Johnny Sexton will start for Leinster against Connacht. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Pro14: Leinster v Connacht, Saturday January 2nd, RDS (kick-off 7.35pm, eir Sport)
Leinster will field a side offering a blend of youth and experience when they take on Connacht in Dublin on Saturday evening, with a pair of debutants joining a host of Ireland internationals in the starting XV.
Johnny Sexton returns from injury at outhalf, with Luke McGrath captaining the side from number nine. Rory O’Loughlin and Jimmy O’Brien are named in midfield.
Twenty-year-old academy player Max O’Reilly makes his first provincial appearance at fullback. Andrew Smith, who represented Ireland Under-20s in 2020, makes his debut on the wing - Dave Kearney brings some experience to the back three.
Up front Peter Dooley, James Tracy and Michael Bent are named in the frontrow, with Ross Molony and Devin Toner in the engine room.
Ryan Baird and Scott Penny start at flanker while Dan Leavy starts at number eight in what could be a huge year for him, having spent most of 2020 bidding to return to fitness.
Jack Conan and Ed Byrne are named among the replacements, as they make their comebacks from injury.
Leinster: Max O’Reilly; Andrew Smith, Jimmy O’Brien, Rory O’Loughlin, Dave Kearney; Johnny Sexton, Luke McGrath; Peter Dooley, James Tracy, Michael Bent; Ross Molony, Devin Toner; Ryan Baird, Scott Penny, Dan Leavy. Replacements: Seán Cronin, Ed Byrne, Tom Clarkson, Josh Murphy, Jack Conan, Hugh O’Sullivan, Liam Turner, Will Connors.